Happy Columbus Day! As we celebrate Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America, we have entered the heart of the fall gardening season.
This continent has always been blessed with an amazing diversity of plant materials from long before Columbus. Columbus and the explorers and settlers that followed began the great “swap shop” of plant material and genetics as they took newly discovered American trees, berries, flowers and vegetables to Europe and brought new seeds and plants from Europe, Asia and Africa to the Americas.
That exchange from around the world continues even today as we try to cultivate the best from everywhere while cherishing and saving our native plants. Most Oklahoma gardens are a combination or melting pot of native and introduced plant material.
Most all of the state was blessed with really nice soaking rains over the past two weeks, and it is amazing how quickly our lawns and most plant material have greened back up after those refreshing rains combined with the cooler temperatures of fall. We have about for to five weeks of crisp fall growing season to enjoy our annual gardens before the first freeze but there are many hardier annuals, perennials and cool season fall crops that will survive the early light frosts and keep performing until we get a really hard freeze below 25 degrees, 20 degrees or even 15 degrees depending on the type of plant and the microclimate where you have them planted.
The hardy or fall chrysanthemums are now in full color and most will stay really showy until the first freeze. They do great in containers or the ground but are heavy drinkers and will need regular watering when we have warmer drying days.
The ornamental kale and cabbage will stay pretty well into winter and are now widely available at local nurseries. Pansies provide a perky uplift of charming flowers in sunny areas throughout the whole winter, blooming even through snows and most other winter challenges with just a little watering attention if we get dry during the winter. Few things cheer me up as much as the bright colorful pansy faces in their full palette of yellow, orange, red, bronze, blue and purple flowers on cold, dark winter days. To experience that joy yourself buy a flat or two of pansies to plant along your sidewalks or in large decorative pots on your porch or patio. If you want a green winter lawn you need to overseed with tall fescue in the next couple of weeks and then water well. Don't forget now is the prime time to buy and plant all your spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths, crocus and daffodils to assure a great round of flowers to kickoff next spring.
Fall is one of the best times to spend in the garden, so I hope you will plant flowers, bulbs and trees, but also walk, sit and meditate in the great outdoors of your yard.
Rodd Moesel serves on the Oklahoma Horticulture Industrial Council and the Oklahoma State University agriculture dean's advisory committee. He is former president of the Oklahoma Greenhouse Growers. Email garden and landscape questions to email@example.com.